Independent must & the Internet

TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH ERIC ATRIA OF MORNINGBELL

Q: As far as independent music, do you think the Internet has helped, hurt or not made a difference?
A: I think until the advent of Myspace and things like that, I think it has done a little bit. But I think the real impact has been through that where it's easier to find bands in other towns with similar styles of music that you like and be able to listen to their music almost instantaneously. Before that if you saw a band it was just like giving someone a business card or something they can listen to when they go home or give them something to check. I'd say for us, the company we had our Web site through was pretty good about being able to see how many people were at our site this day, this week and all that. And there really wasn't too much until we started playing a whole lot, and then it started to go up a little bit. Now I can't keep track anymore, but I assume it's a lot more. It's proportional to the level of the band's success obviously. But again I think it's different for something like Myspace.

Q: What about the industry as a whole? Do you think it's any different?
A: I don't know. It has probably helped because it lets them have any even more direct control over who's looking at what. You know, evidently you can track who's coming to your site and who's been looking at what, so I'm sure they can track people who are looking at certain mainstream stuff and be able to target them better. I'm sure it has probably helped them, but I'm sure in general it has probably hurt them worse because of the piracy. I think the Internet has the capability of taking the record industry down. They're going to have to come up with something very clever and aggressive to defent themselves I think.

Q: Do you think the Internet has made it easier or harder to get noticed?
A: I think definitely easier because if we're trying to get press or we're trying to get booked, you can just check out our Web site instead of having to send a press kit. Press kits are a pain in the ass. Nobody really knows what's supposed to be in a press kit, and I don't know if anybody knows what they're looking for when they receive a press kit. But with the Web site you can tell immediately if the band is worthwhile or if one of the guys in the band knows Flash or something. You can tell a bad Web site when you see it. The band is probably not that professional if their Web site is not that professional. So it's kind of like an interactive calling card I guess. I think it's definitely good.

Q: How does your band use the Internet? Has it affected the way you create, promote or distribute your work?
A: I use the Internet a lot for us, whether it's just e-mailing bands or like I said, going through Myspace. I kind of lost interest, but for a while I would just go to 'Athens' and look for bands in Athens and listen to every one. When I found one that was relatively similar, I'd message them and add all their friends. So hopefully if we ever were to go to Athens, maybe 30 people would know about us and maybe 5 of them would actually come. I always am on Gainesvillebands because every once in a while there will be an opportunity for a show or a promotion or something. Like now they're starting some local music TV, like they'll put something up. If you're not on top of it every day, everybody else would get on it first, so I try to stay on top of that. I probably spend too much time on it. I prefer doing everything via the Internet. I'd say I do most of our booking and everything through it.

Q: Do you provide free samples of your songs on your Web site or anywhere else online?
A: Yeah we have three songs on Myspace. I put up four but when you go to Myspace it plays the default first song, and a lot of bands that I really like on Myspace, it seems like their songs are pretty evenly listened to with one being a lot heavier. On ours we noticed that the song we had as the default has been played like over 1,500 times or something ridiculous like that, whereas the third song has been played a lot less. So it's obvious that nobody's getting to the bottom, so I just took one off. But you can't download those, those are just streaming. The more we've gone along and realized that people actually are buying our CDs, we kind of stopped leaving stuff up for free on our Web site that is on the CD. So instead what I put up on our site is live stuff or like weird recordings we've done, stuff that's not for sale but that somebody that likes the music would probably like.

Q: Do you sell merchandise on your Web site or anywhere else online?
A: Yea. We've actually sold only one CD ever through our Web site. [laughs] I don't know if you should print that or not. But I think usually people just get them at shows and I think a lot of times people want one for free. I know I've gotten a lot of people e-mail me like "Oh I saw you guys play last night. Can I get a CD?" And yeah, no problem, paypal $10. Then they'll never reply again. Everything's available through our site.

Q: Do you want complete control over the distribution of your music?
A: I don't know. I've actually been thinking about that lately. I'd obviously prefer it because then I could reap all the benefits. But if for some reason we could get someone to distribute it and promote it on a wider level, then I'd take it because it would hard for me to know and learn what are the good independent record stores, which is where we'd probably have to distribute through at this level in Tallahassee or Jacksonville or Athens. I'd have to actually do a lot of work for that whereas a distribution company would be able to do it in a second because that's what they do. I don't know. Tough call.

Q: Do you think that copyright laws do a good job of protecting artists rights?
A: Well I mean, not with the Internet now. I studied some stuff while I was in school, and the whole deal with the Internet and music companies is they don't want to start suing people who download a ton of mp3s because then they're going to become more despised as an industry and people will probably want to start pissing them off more. So it's kind of tough for them to protect their copyrights. I think copyrights are good for bands at our level because if you're protected and somebody does happen to come accross your material and take it because they figure you're a two-bit band who has got no brains or whatever, I think that would probably be good because you'd be able to protect your music and it's obvious that you're not something that's getting out on the Internet through a wide scale yet or something for that matter, if that makes any sense.

Q: Do you copyright your work?
A: Well technically everything is copyrighted from the moment of creation. So if I were to sing your a song right now that I just made up, it would be copyrighted. But the thing is, I can't sue. It has to be registered for you to be able to sue. If it's not registered, technically you could say that I wrote that song three years ago, but what are you going to do prove it. Even if you have an old recording, it's not easy to prove. It's only $30 to copyright a whole CD. If you want to copyright 30 songs it's $30; if you want to copyright one song it's $30 to register. It's worth doing. I think a lot more bands should do it. Ours is all registered.

Q: What are your thoughts on file sharing over the Internet or burning CDs?
A: What I do if I hear about a band and I dont know is I'll download their album, and if it's good..I recently did this with a band called Of Montreal, and I kind of liked it so I bought it. They're an independent band, not independent but they're on a small label. So I bought their CD. But recently I burned a bunch of Nick Drake CDs because he passed on and I don't know if his estate really needs the money, or the label. I don't really feel as guilty about that. I try to do it kind of looking out for myself and the artist. If it's independent or a small label, I'll definitely buy it if I like it. But everybody hates buying a CD. It sucks. Now they're cheaper, but when I was in high school CDs were like $18. So I think it's nice to be able to preview it now in a sense.

Q: Would you pay to download music?
A: I don't think so. I'd rather just buy the CD. It's kind of weird. I guess they gotta do what they can do, but I think it's kind of a weak attempt by the industry to come up with a solution and be like "Oh, we'll stop people from downloading stuff by making them pay a dollar to download." I think it's a weak effort. I don't think I'd ever do that.

Q: What do you think the best approach is to deal with unauthorized file sharing?
A: It's really tough. See, that's another thing because then you're going to get into I guess technically some people saying "Oh it's our right to share information with each other. We shouldn't be restricted." But you and I both know that programs like Kazaa and Limewire are not used for anything but downloading stuff that is probably supposed to be bought. If you want to send a file to a friend, you could do that through instant message or mail. Programs like that, I think anybody can agree that they are being used to download illegally pirated files. I'd say almost 99 percent. I don't think the record companies would have opposition from any decision-making body to be able to see "We need to have very strict control over this thing." But then again you have things like Kazaa incorporated in some Pacific island where it's really hard to get a hold of. The same thing kind of with money-laundering. The banks and all these things are in weird little countries that are just islands. It's hard to police that, but it needs to be policed very heavily. There needs to be fines. Not even criminal arrests. If you get caught, you won't know it. Just one day in the mail you'll get a fine. And that's the only way I think people will start fearing it. I mean, I guess it's kind of weird that you'd have to start fearing music, but I think it's only fair. As with everything else I think you deserve to get paid for what you create and what you work on.

Q: How do you think it affects the amount of money someone spends on CDs or shows?
A: I don't know. I think that CDs have gone down a lot in the last couple years. That I think is another alternative, to realize that you're going screwed with CDs so just start focusing heavily on live performances. That's something the music industry could do to try and safe itself. You can't bootleg a concert. You can, but it's not like seeing the band. So I wouldn't be surprised if concert prices go up. Most people I come across think, "Why would I pay for this if I could get it for free?" It's human nature to think like that.

Q: Do you think that the CD packaging or enhancements would make a difference?
A: I was thinking about that, and it's tough to say because I know for a while when DVD burning wasn't too feasible, a lot of CDs came out with DVDs. But now burning a DVD seems to be as cheap and easy as burning a CD. I'm trying to think. I know old records like Sergeant Pepper came with cutouts of mustaches. I don't know. I honestly think that there's going to be some sort of equation because the more stuff like that you do, the more expensive the CD is. They really have to know that people will want to buy it for all that extra fluff or else they'd be losing extra money because people won't be buying it and they spent a lot of extra money on packaging. But I don't know. I don't know what they could put in it. If every CD came with stickers, a button and like, I don't know, a patch, that might be kind of cool.